As I’ve noted here before, the current crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing the border has had one upside. It has forced the actual GOP stance on immigration out into the open, increasingly boxing Republicans into a position where their main solution to the broader immigration crisis is effectively advocating for maximum deportations from the interior, including of the DREAMers.
Now, as the battle over the crisis continues to roil the political landscape, the point is being underscored by none other than Ted Cruz:
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to take a hard-line stand that could rile up conservatives just as lawmakers — including two from his home state — are struggling to address the growing humanitarian crisis along the southern border.
The conservative firebrand believes that any bill to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border must also include language to stop a 2012 immigration directive from President Barack Obama — a proposal unlikely to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
It’s true that Cruz is differing from his two fellow Texans — Senator John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar — on how to respond to the short term crisis. Cruz is pushing for any GOP legislative response to it to include language ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — i.e., the program deferring deportation of the DREAMers — while the two other Texans aren’t.
But the policy goal that Cruz is advocating is widely shared by many in the GOP, even if they aren’t advocating for it to be included in the party’s immediate response to the crisis. Republicans have long attacked Obama for failing to “enforce the law” on immigration, by which they mean Obama’s deferral of deportation of the DREAMers has shown him to be lawless. Criticism of this is effectively a call for Obama to deport them all. But when Republicans have previously been pressed on whether that’s what they are advocating for, they have tended to sidestep the question.
Yet now that the widespread GOP response to the current crisis is that Obama’s failure to deport the DREAMers is to blame, because it has created a “magnet” for more kids to come, it has grown impossible for Republicans to obscure the true implications of their argument.
And so, Ted Cruz is essentially calling on Republicans to formalize in their legislative response to the crisis what is already their actual position on immigration in general. (House Republicans already voted in 2013 to end DACA.) And not only that, National Review reports that more and more conservatives are now giving voice to the Cruz stance, arguing that Republicans must not offer any legislative response to the crisis because Obama’s “amnesty” for the DREAMers proves he cannot be trusted to work with them even on the current border debacle.
In the short term, this Cruz gambit could make it tougher for John Boehner to get any border bill through the House, and increasingly reliant on Dems to do so. But beyond this, it’s a reminder that even if the crisis is very tough politics for Obama and Dems, it is also putting Republicans in a terrible position, dramatizing that they have only moved further to the right on immigration since their 2012 loss led to a big round of soul searching about how to broaden the party’s appeal beyond core constituencies. As Steve Benen notes, they are now farther outside the mainstream on this issue than ever.
Republicans like to say they can do reform in 2015 and begin to get right with Latinos in time for the 2016 presidential election. But if anything, reform could get harder next year, particularly if the GOP presidential primary gets going and Cruz demagogues the immigration issue to win far right GOP primary voters. Indeed, we’re now getting a preview of what that might look like.
* CAN BOEHNER PASS BORDER FIX THROUGH HOUSE? Republicans appear to be moving toward a proposal that would cut the level of funding Obama wants, while changing the law to speed removals. But the Hill reports that it will be hard to get even that through the House:
Republican sources…say Speaker John Boehner will have difficulty passing a smaller supplemental — in the ballpark of $1.5 billion — paired with policy changes. They estimate Boehner needs 50 to 60 Democratic votes to pass it because conservative members are leery about emergency spending, which adds to the deficit, and want a harder line taken against the illegal immigrants.
As noted here the other day, the likelihood of conservatives balking at any spending on the border crisis is looming as a big test for Boehner. The problem is that any such policy changes to speed removals designed to win over Republicans risk losing Democrats.
* DEMS FACE CHALLENGE ON BORDER CRISIS, TOO: The Post has a good overview of the tensions between Congressional Democrats and the White House over the crisis, as Dems harden their opposition to any changes in the law that would expedite removals of arriving minors. Here’s what happened at a meeting yesterday:
During the meeting Obama told the group that he wanted “to find a way to ensure due process but also speed things up” in the processing of young migrants, according to another lawmaker in the room who asked not to be identified in order to frankly describe the president’s opinions.
It’s still unclear where this goes from here. The question is whether Senate Democrats move their own bill forward that only provides funding to address the crisis, with no legal changes to speed deportations.
* CONSERVATIVES SOFTENING ON IMMIGRATION? Don’t miss National Journal’s nicely reported piece detailing how South Carolina conservatives and evangelicals are softening their attitudes towards immigration. As always, this raises a key question: Is the GOP base really all that opposed to reform?
Or is it more likely that in blocking reform, GOP leaders are catering only to a very far right slice of Republicans who are the only ones genuinely adamant in their opposition, as even some GOP pollsters have argued?
* REPUBLICANS NOT SO HOT ON BOEHNER’S LAWSUIT: Jeremy Peters has a nice overview of the skirmishing around the GOP lawsuit against Obama, noting that some top Republicans are actually tepid in their support for it. Note this concession from Rep. Virginia Foxx:
“I get many letters every day from constituents who say, ‘O.K., you have the power of the purse; now cut off the funding,’ ” Ms. Foxx said, describing a plea that many conservatives have made for Congress to defund the health care law. “What they forget to note is that when the laws pass the House, they also have to pass the Senate. So it is not a unilateral authority that we have in the House.”
So the GOP lawsuit — which is ostensibly about Obama’s supposed flouting of the separation of powers — is partly about assuaging GOP frustration over the Republican-controlled House’s inability to impose its will on the whole system, thanks to divided government.
* WHY REPUBLICANS MAY NOT WIN SENATE: Kyle Klondik has a terrific piece diving into obscure historical facts to explain that the GOP quest for a Senate majority may be complicated by the party’s poor record of ousting incumbent Dem Senators:
If Republicans are to win the Senate, they probably are going to have to do something they haven’t done since 1980: beat more than two Democratic Senate incumbents in November…Republicans have had some good Senate elections, like in 1994 — when they netted eight seats and took control of the upper chamber — as well as 2004 and 2010, when they netted four and six seats, respectively. But these were electoral triumphs built mainly on winning Democratic seats where incumbents were not running…Republicans have some obscure but relevant history to overcome.
Read the whole thing. If you give Republicans three seats at the outset — West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana — they still will likely have to oust three remaining Dem incumbents. And these Dems are proving pretty resourceful in emphasizing their brands and roots in the states.
* COLORADO SENATE RACE VERY CLOSE: A new Quinnipiac poll finds GOPer Cory Gardner with a slight edge over Senator Mark Udall in Colorado, 44-42, which Quinnipiac describes as “tied.” This is at odds with yesterday’s NBC poll finding Udall up seven points.
As always, go back to the polling average: It shows Udall up by one, 45-44. As always, what happens here (and in Iowa and Michigan) will provide clues to whether the GOP is meaningfully broadening the map beyond the core red state battlegrounds.
* HOW DEMS WILL TRY TO SPLIT GOP: E.J. Dionne has a good column laying out the Democratic strategy of trying to use the right’s extreme anti-government sentiment to split the business community (which sees a valid role for government in the economy) from the GOP:
In the past, conservatives have used social and cultural issues as wedges to split Democratic constituencies. Now, Democrats view the GOP’s attitude toward government as a wedge issue that might make pro-business populism possible. In American politics, stranger things have happened.
As noted here yesterday, the battle over infrastructure investment (which the business community wants) is a good example of an area where GOP leaders are willing to stiff-arm the anti-government Tea Party. There are very few other such areas, though, a fact Dems will try to exploit.